Over the last few years I have been exploring the world and crossing many vacation spots off my bucket list. From: Puerto Rico, Aruba, Curacao, St Thomas, Dubai, Paris, Spain, Italy and many other destinations I've been having a blast! When I was a little girl watching National Geographic and travel documentaries I knew I had to visit Hawaii. The impressive mountain terrain and white sandy beaches were too alluring to pass up and last week I was able to explore Maui and Honolulu on a week long holiday.
After a stop-over in beautiful Vancouver and about 11 hours of flying from Toronto I finally arrived in Maui at our beach front resort, close to Wailea on Kihei Road. From our room we had beautiful views of the coastline and mountains.
(Resort: Mana Kai Maui)
(View from our balcony)
Wailea is a picturesque place to stay while in Maui; there are a variety of great resorts along the beach and the area is lush and colorful. The landscaping is beautifully groomed and big African banyan trees form a thick canopy above the roads. If you like to shop, there is a selection of high-end stores as well as souvenir shops, restaurants and bars.
Compared to Honolulu the atmosphere in Maui is more relaxed, there is less hustle and bustle and the beaches are less crowded. Renting a car is the best way to see the islands, rentals are affordable and you can cruise the well kept roads at a leisurely pace while enjoying the scenery. If you drive past Wailea along the water you will begin to see different terrain as large, jagged volcanic rocks jut out of the soil and create a dark base around the mountains.
(Maui's Coast: on the way to Hana)
Our first outing was the popular drive to Hana. The road to Hana is a winding journey that hugs the coastline and cuts through the thick green rain forest. You can purchase a CD guide to narrate your journey, provide interesting historical information and suggest great places to stop along the way.
(The road to Hana, scenic photo)
As we made our way up and around the steep green cliffs the plunging views of the deep blue water and coves below were impressive! Many parts of the road are only wide enough for one car to pass at a time and there are over 56 bridges to cross. I will admit to getting car sick with all the turns and twists but the trip was well worth it.
In the rain forest the air was thick and humid, laden with the heavy scent of ripe fruit and thickets of bamboo and flowering plants. We hiked our way to the Twin Falls where travelers swim in the cool flowing water.
(The rain forest)
Local fruit stands can be found by the roadside selling homemade banana bread, Hawaiian shaved ice, fresh coconut, pineapple, smoothies and more!
On the road to Hana there is a lot to see and do including: nature trails, parks, caves, gardens, beaches and quaint towns. If you enjoy getting off the resort and experiencing the land and nature then the day trip to and from Hana is definitely worth it!
(Waianapanapa Black Beach: Maui)
There are many great beaches to choose from in Maui but a favorite among the locals is Big Beach. The waves were a bit rough the day I visited but that didn't keep me from getting in! The beach is beautiful with golden sand and sparkling water.
(Big Beach: Mekena Road-Wailea in Maui)
One of the most popular things to do while in Hawaii is participate in a good old fashion luau. I wanted to attend the best of the best so after reading many travelers reviews and recommendations I booked the highest rated luau in Maui called The Old Lahaina Luau. The atmosphere was great at the site and there were traditional Hawaiian arts, crafts and dancing.
Although the open bar was fantastic the small buffet left much to be desired. The assortment of food was poor and lacked flavor and the show was mediocre and void of the fire spinners we longed to see. Being on the beach under a canopy of stars and tiki torches while watching the hula dancers do their thing did make for a good night but for $109 per person we got less than expected.
Mia thai drink: popular in Hawaii (contains rum, Curacao liqueur and lime juice)
One of the most interesting things I did in Maui and a once in a lifetime experience was watching the sunset at Haleakala National Park. Waking up at 3am to drive ten thousand feet above sea level in the pitch dark was a bit unnerving but once at the summit the view was like none I have ever experienced. I found myself standing on a mountain peak so high I was looking down on the clouds! Although it was freezing up there, watching the sun rise and driving back down through the sky was exhilarating! Haleakala is Hawaiian for House of the Sun.
(Haleakala National Park)
After having a great time on the quiet island of Maui I took a short 37 minute flight to the busy city of Honolulu. I stayed in the popular area of Wikiki Beach on Kuhio Avenue which is a shopper’s paradise and walking distance from everything on the city’s coast. Here you will find an abundance of malls, shops, craft markets and well known restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory, IHOP and The Hard Rock Cafe. The stores are open early and stay open late so it is a great place to spend the evening.
I recommend stopping for a refreshing Hawaiian ice
I did a little shopping and purchased a cute fall bag from Forever 21 among other goodies and souvenirs!
(nail polish from: ABC Store)
The world famous Waikiki Beach is a great place to swim and bask in the sun. Although it can get quite crowded it is picturesque.
I like to shop but I wanted to get away from the busy city and experience more of the tropical island vibe so we drove to the east side of the island towards Lanikai along the Windward Shore. This side of the island is exactly what I pictured when I think of Hawaii, in fact a lot of popular TV shows and films were shot here like Lost, Pirates of the Caribbean and Jurassic park. The beaches along this shore are less crowded and the landscape is wild and incredible!
I highly recommend stopping at the Byodo-In Temple tucked away in a bountiful valley at the base of rugged mountains. The temple is surrounded by thick green forest and coy ponds. I felt like I was in a scared, ancient spot in Thailand and for just $3.00 entry this was one of my favorite stops.
Waimanalo Bay Beach is a pristine spot to spend the day. The waves can get quite rough so swimming is not always advisable, it is however great for surfing, one of Hawaii’s most popular pastimes. Further up the coast from Waimanalo, Lanikai beach ranked one of the best beaches in the world has calmer water better for swimming and just as scenic.
Overall I highly enjoyed my stay in Hawaii, you get the best of both worlds; great city life, shopping and just a short drive along the coast provides seclusion, relaxation and gorgeous beaches. I definitely plan to return and explore some of the other islands in the future.